The PNG Kumul’s go into the Quarterfinal against England buoyed by their unbeaten run through the pool games. The resounding wins over Wales, Ireland and USA has however masked a reality that will mean they go into the England match as complete underdogs.
Whilst they scored 116 points and conceded 6 in the pool games, the Kumul’s performances have been littered with errors averaging almost 15 a game. In addition, 10 of their 11 tries against the USA came from broken field play. Michael Marum will know that making anywhere near that level of errors against the English will be fatal and he will also know that they will not be gifted opportunity and field position as they have been so far in the tournament.
The English will certainly be more accustomed to the physicality with which the Kumuls have been able to bully their opponents and this threat will be more than nullified. Wayne Bennet will only have to look to the Hunters Intrust super Championship game against Penrith on NRL Grand Final day to measure how the Kumuls physical threat can be extinguished. Granted the Hunters were coming off an emotional high the previous week, but when put under the physical pump, the Hunters were unable or unwilling to find a Plan B. Marum will need to be alert to the fact that he is up against one of the greatest Coaches and tacticians in Rugby League history and the English will be more than prepared for what the Kumuls will bring.
Bennett’s team in defence will no doubt look to control the ruck speed and slow the Kumul go forward whilst seeking to use their bigger forwards to control the ruck in attack. As we saw against Ireland, the PNG halves will be placed under pressure by a rushing defensive line and will need to adapt to this eventuality.
The Kumul’s chances will rest on matching the English Professionalism. Ball Control. Set Completion. Discipline and field position. What the Kumuls lack tactically they more than make up for with their ad lib capability and their ability to keep the ball alive and get second phases will put the bigger English under pressure. Marum will be best served avoiding route 1 but rather use his high calibre three quarters to try and win the game. The Kumul backline is pound for pound arguably the better outfit and the likes of David Mead, Gary Lo, Kato Ottio and Justin Olam are potential match winners for the Kumuls.
Ultimately it will come down to who is the more professional outfit. If the game was in Port Moresby then the Kumuls would be in with a chance but given it is in friendlier territory and with Wayne Bennet at the helm, an English victory is likely.
England by 20.